Dems slam Bachmann over rhetoric, warn of extremism

WASHINGTON — Democrats, including Rep. Betty McCollum, launched into an assault on incivility Tuesday, saying incendiary words from members of Congress were inflaming tensions that could provoke another incident of Oklahoma City-style domestic terrorism.

“When Members of Congress compare health-care legislation to ‘government tyranny,’ ‘socialism,’ or ‘totalitarianism’ — in the hopes of scoring political points — it’s like pouring gas on the fire of extremism,” McCollum said.

McCollum’s St. Paul office was one of a few that received an envelope containing gasoline-soaked tatters of an American flag and a letter that called her things not fit for print in this or any publication. Several police departments, including St. Paul and the Capitol Police, are investigating.

“The members of this House — Democrats and Republicans — have a duty and an obligation to end the dangerous name-calling that can only inspire the extremist militias and phony patriots,” McCollum said. “In the most free, prosperous and greatest democracy on earth it is time to return to a civil, decent debate of public policy.”

“I don’t want another ‘Oklahoma City’ to ever take place again,” McCollum said. “Just as we would not give aid and comfort to al-Qaida, let us not allow the words of elected leaders give comfortable excuses to extremists bent on violence.”

Oklahoma Republicans hit back, with Rep. Tom Cole saying in a statement that “the fact that a member of Congress would invoke this tragedy to make a cheap political statement is reprehensible. Members of both parties should show respect for the victims’ families and refrain from using rhetoric that politicizes this tragic event.”

Nowhere in that floor speech did she say the name Michele Bachmann, but it’s pretty clear that the darling of the Tea Party right fits the bill as someone whose rhetoric McCollum would like to be toned down. Bachmann has said the recently passed health care bill amounts to socialism, that the tactics used to pass it amounted to tyranny. A quickie search didn’t show an example of her calling it totalitarianism, though plenty of Republicans (like Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch) have.

The No.2 Democrat in the House, Maryland’s Steny Hoyer, hit out at Bachmann and Minnesota talk radio host Chris Baker for denying that racial epithets were hurled at black lawmakers, including civil-rights icon John Lewis, during protests in the run-up to the health care vote.

“I think it undermines the credibility of somebody who’s a denier. People denied a lot of things happened, bad things that happened,” Hoyer said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that what John Lewis said happened and what others saw and heard happen did, in fact, happen. That’s why I think the credibility of that assertion is questionable.”

Not so coincidentally, Thursday is April 15, tax day. There’s a Tea Party rally planned for that day to highlight what organizers call Washington’s out-of-control spending.

Organizers say they are planning to kick out any “infiltrators” from the left, whom they allege are responsible for the incivility at previous rallies.

I reached out to Bachmann’s office for comment, and will update with their response when I get it.

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Comments (16)

  1. Submitted by Paul Scott on 04/14/2010 - 10:27 am.

    I predict that she will apologize, disavow her incendiary comments, own up to a long record of abject stupidity and resign.

  2. Submitted by Tim Walker on 04/14/2010 - 11:16 am.

    It’s about time Dems grew a spine about these things.

    Go Betty, go!

  3. Submitted by Ross Williams on 04/14/2010 - 12:10 pm.

    “refrain from using rhetoric that politicizes this tragic event.”

    Lets be clear – the Oklahoma City bombing WAS a political event, not some natural tragedy. Just as the shooting(s) of Dr. George Tiller were political events.

    The first time Tiller was shot, his shooter was praised after the shooting as “one fine lady” to wild applause at a Republican gathering by the vice-Chair of the Republican party in her home state of Oregon. The leader in question not only wasn’t censored she later was elected to the legislature and served as the chair of an important committee.

    This kind of wink and nod approval of extremist violence is exactly what we ought to fear. Just as the Republican talk of secession ought to be seen as a direct assault on the United States. The confederates started a war on the United States. Talking about secession and flying their battle flag ought to be treason, but its not.

    As Lincoln understood, when people deny the validity of majority decisions, they are attacking the very basis of the United States. The “party of Lincoln” is rapidly becoming the “party of Jefferson Davis”, with likely the same catastrophic impact on the country.

    The real existential threat to the United States isn’t from foreign terrorists, its from domestic politicians who deny the legitimacy of majority decision making. We are the most powerful country in the world, powerful enough to destroy ourselves.

  4. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 04/14/2010 - 12:22 pm.

    The Party of Al Franken is calling for civility now….that’s pretty funny! Although I bet the SEIU doesn’t appreciate being marginalized like that.

    Well, after voters have the opportunity to vent their anger in Nov., I’m guessing things will tone down considerably.

    And, given her history, I’m sure that Rep. McCollum won’t be making herself available for public appearances that aren’t carefully controlled anyway.

  5. Submitted by Alicia DeMatteo on 04/14/2010 - 12:27 pm.

    So, essentially asking for civility, personal responsibility and honesty in congress is now a radical idea. Great.

  6. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 04/14/2010 - 01:18 pm.

    Even now, some still cling to the provably false, (lying) “Angry Al” talking point of the previous Reb. campaign and yet cannot supply a single example of where Senator Franken has said anything that could be described as uncivil. My how we like to cling to our delusions!

    Of course to some among us, the fact that someone else states facts that contradict their alternate-reality talking points always makes them very angry, anger which they then project onto those calmly stating the contradictory facts. Unable to own their own dysfunctional rage, they accuse others of the anger problems they, themselves, so clearly exhibit.

    Which party is the party of “HELL NO!”? Not the party of Senator Franken, is it?

  7. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 04/14/2010 - 01:31 pm.

    How about three examples in 10 seconds or less?

    “I’m Al Franken. I hate you, and you hate me.”
    — How Franken said he introduced himself to Karl Rove, Newsweek, March 29, 2004

    “Minnesota Republican Norman Coleman is one of the administration’s leading butt boys.”
    — The Truth (With Jokes) p. 262

    Minnpost probably won’t post this classic, so listen for yourself (NSFW):

    The Party of Al Franken demands civility…pretty funny!

  8. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 04/14/2010 - 02:12 pm.

    Watching the Party of Al Frankin feign the Victorian vopours *is* comical, but behind the comedy is real fear.

    If any Democrat doubts how bad their party has tanked, this article from today’s “The Hill” (The beltway’s newspaper of record) provides a cold shower:

    Poll: 46 percent want Bush back

    “Almost half of Americans prefer George W. Bush to President Barack Obama, according to a new Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey.”


    “Forty-six percent of respondents said they’d like to have Bush back in the White House, while 48 percent prefer Obama.”

    “These numbers suggest some peril for Democrats in making Bush a focus of their messaging this fall. A lot of folks who contributed to the former President’s low level of popularity now like Obama even less.”

    Ouch…that’s gonna leave a mark in November.

  9. Submitted by Tom Miller on 04/14/2010 - 03:15 pm.

    It is easier to hate than cooperate. Faster, too. It requires no serious thinking, and produces an instant and powerful gut-level sense of one’s self as superior to the hated other. And it is catchy.

    This is the root of tea party. More importantly, it is the reason that the incredibly wealthy are the chief funding source for both the tea party mobs and the the GOP. The rich and the Republicans know that fostering hatred will return them to power more quickly, easily and cheaply than actually trying to stake out a reasoned position and helping to govern.

  10. Submitted by John Jordan on 04/14/2010 - 03:41 pm.

    Maybe some day we’ll see an “article” on MinnPost about a liberal and their extremism. Say, Betty or Keith.

    I’m not holding my breath.

    The idea of Betty whining about extremism is the perfect example of kettle and black.

  11. Submitted by Lance Groth on 04/14/2010 - 05:27 pm.

    The Dems are absolutely right. The Repub leaders (and their apologists) have pandered to the radical, paranoid, right wing extremists for years. Limbaugh and his ilk get rich throwing gasoline on the fire, the Repub politicians jump on the bandwagon because it gets them contributions and some votes, and the legion of loyal little blogger foot soldiers happily carry their water. Rep. Cole’s comment would be deliciously ironic if it weren’t so offensive. Offensive, because it puts petty politics above Country, and above honor. It’s about time the Dems hit back at the screechy histrionics of the right.

    The Repubs also like to cherry pick polls, statistics, and “facts” (cf. the typical Denialist straw man arguments against any scientific fact they find to be inconvenient – intellectual dishonesty in service to lust for power). Two can play at that game – for example, a poll cited today in CNN shows Obama handily beating the three leading Repub contenders for the presidency in hypothetical 2012 match-ups, with King Timmy solidly mired in low single digits, so there, guess that trumps the Hill poll – but it’s about equally meaningless no matter which side posts it. Actual events have a way of embarrassing pollsters. For example, at this point in Lincoln’s first term, Mr. Swift would have written him off too, based on his low popularity (he won with only 39% of the vote in 1860) and the general disrespect and vile names directed at him in public by prominent figures, including his own generals. Oops, guess the prevailing wisdom of the time was dead wrong, eh?

    Don’t look for any big blood bath in November. Despite the screeching rhetoric of the extremists on both left and right, most Americans are still in the rational middle, and they don’t like public displays of paranoia, hysterical name-calling, or general foaming at the mouth. They do like their leaders to be strong, and Americans love a winner. After kind of strangely hanging back for the first year, Obama has shown himself to be both strong and a winner in 2010. The sky has not fallen now that health care reform has been passed (which, despite Republican fun ‘n games with polls and statistics, was favored by a small majority of Americans), and the winning roll continues with arms control and financial reform. The Dems will lose seats – the majority party always does in off-year elections – but they will not lose control of Congress, and Obama will crush the opposition in 2012.

    Here’s a hint: Repubs like to crow about Sen. Brown’s election in Massachusetts, the bluest of blue states. What they fail to mention is that he won as a centrist, not as a Palin/Bachmann style right wing looney (and his voting record so far is that of a centrist). Only 12% of voters in Mass. identify themselves as Repubs. 36% are Dems, and 51% are independents. It was the independents that elected Brown – the same people who elected Obama a year earlier – and no, that does not mean they’re all now Repubs. They were voting against something, not for the Repub agenda. They were sending a message to Washington. This does not constitute a sea change in favor of Repubs, though they may reap some short term gains from it. Independents are exactly that – independent – and most of them have pretty good b.s. detectors. When they’ve had a belly full of the Palin/Bachmann/Limbaugh message of FUD, lies and paranoia, they’ll turn back the other way, and sooner than you might think. Beware.

  12. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 04/14/2010 - 06:46 pm.

    We should be thankful that Betty McCollum gets it. As does writer Sara Robinson in an article (Fascist America: Are We There Yet?, in which she uses Robert O. Paxton’s history of the development of fascism in various countries throughout the 20th Century to analyze today’s America.

    Stage 3? We’re looking at it. It happens when a conservative elite forms “an unholy alliance” with the capable-of-violence brownshirts that arose during stages 1 and 2. Think Timothy McVeigh and the abortion doctor murderers.

    This conservative elite uses the inflammatory language we hear from Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Glen Beck, and any number of right-wing members of Congress. Says Ms. Robinson, “America’s conservative elites have openly thrown in with the country’s legions of discontented far right thugs.”

    She quotes Paxton as asking if we see three signs of a “danger line” we don’t want to cross:

    “1) Are [neo- or protofascisms] becoming rooted as parties that represent major interests and wield major influence on the political scene?

    “2) Is the economic or constitutional system in a stage of blockage apparently insoluble by existing authorities?

    “3) Is a rapid political mobilization threatening to escape the control of traditional elites, to the point where they would be tempted to look for tough helpers in order to stay in charge?”

    Tea Party, anyone?

    See also a review by Samantha Power of Paxton’s book, “The Anatomy of Fascism” at

    And a Thom Hartmann article called “Reclaiming the Issues: Islamic or Republican Fascism?” at

  13. Submitted by Howard Miller on 04/14/2010 - 09:06 pm.

    if voters are ANGRY … they’re not thinking as sharply, emotion overwhelming rational discourse.

    keeping things in a civil voice is key. note how hard the radical right works to disrupt that going forward

  14. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 04/15/2010 - 09:26 am.

    Add to #12: I didn’t mean to imply either that Betty McCollum agreed with Sara Robinson’s analysis or that all Tea Party members are capable of violence.

    Some Tea Partiers, many militia members and many racist, anti-immigrant or anti-government zealots are definitely capable of violence. Betty M. is completely correct in warning of the very real possibility that the inflammatory language used by Bachmann-like politicians and media personalities can be just what those prone to violence want to hear to justify using it.

  15. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 04/15/2010 - 11:39 am.

    “a poll cited today in CNN shows Obama handily beating the three leading Repub contenders for the presidency in hypothetical 2012 match-ups”

    I’d love to see the CNN poll that decided who the “three leading Repub contenders” are. Personally, I haven’t seen, or heard of anyone claiming to be “leading” anything.

  16. Submitted by Jen McJenny on 04/15/2010 - 01:23 pm.

    This is the playbook of the socialist left worldwide. They confiscate your wealth and destroy entire industries and then when you get angry about it they call for civility.

    They know very well that it is their own vile and despicable creed that is at the root of the anger. Indeed it is their goal to precipitate a crisis so they can assume even more power.

    McCollum wondering why people are mad over health care is exactly the same as the plantation owners who used to wonder why their slaves didn’t appreciate the food and clothing they were provided. Tyrants never recognize themselves as such.

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